Monday, December 29, 2008

Stay at Home and Get Paid!

Given the recent collapse of the global financial market, I am not sure its wise to push the "learn how to invest overnight" business model. I suppose television pitch-men still have to make their living too.

That said, those who decide to try and make "ten, twenty, even sixty thousand dollars month!" purchasing the simple "investment fortune in a box" programs two words spring to mind...caveat emptor.

One silver lining....the mustachiod, flip-flop wearing, yacht captain promising endless returns on real estate appears to have disappeared from the television.

- Murphy

Nixon Waiting For Federal Funds?

Incoming Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has said he will not tap into Missouri's "Rainy Day Fund" in order to make up for expected budget shortfalls.

Local legislators, State Sen. Jeff Smith and State Rep Jamilah Nasheed, have been pushing the Governor to tap into the half-billion dollar savings account the State has built up for use in emergencies. The state has not dipped into and not used since the massive floods in the early 1990's.

The Obama transition team has indicated it wants to channel much of the proposed stimulus fund into things like infrastructure, much of which will be funneled through states, many of which are facing difficult cuts due to revenue shortfalls.

Economist Paul Krugman enthusiastically endorses this idea. Krugman notes that if the states continue their cuts-mostly due to mandatory balanced budget rules such as Missouri's which leaves states little room-and the federal government doesn't help make up the shortfalls, the economy could continue to stagnate. States and the organizations they fund-directly or indirectly-are already laying off employees, thus adding energy to the downward spiral.

- Murphy

Ad Infinitum....

From today's New York Times.

“In the cabinet room today there was an energy, a feeling that after so long of showing restraint we had finally acted,” said Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, speaking of the weekly government meeting that he attended.

Mark Heller, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, said that that energy reflected the deep feeling among average Israelis that the country had to regain its deterrent capacity.

“There has been a nagging sense of uncertainty in the last couple years of whether anyone is really afraid of Israel anymore,” he said. “The concern is that in the past — perhaps a mythical past — people didn’t mess with Israel because they were afraid of the consequences. Now the region is filled with provocative rhetoric about Israel the paper tiger. This operation is an attempt to re-establish the perception that if you provoke or attack you are going to pay a disproportionate price.”

It may be that the real lesson of the 2006 Lebanon war has less to do with the strength of Israel, than the salted-earth nature of this type of warfare. 

Israel stepped up its attacks on Hezbollah in 2006 and drew little distinction between the terrorist organization and the government of Lebanon. In the process it attacked not only the group's surprisingly extensive military network of bunkers, weapons caches and communications hubs (also using top-of-the line encryption and hacking tech) but also the civilian infrastructure including bridges, the international airport and the power grid. 

For the Lebanese civilians, they found themselves trapped. Hezbollah parries and feints, raining mortars and rockets on Israel-with almost zero effect save for enraging the Israeli populace-and daring the Israeli military to attack it as it secludes itself amongst the civilian population; a living shield for their military attacks.

In the end, no gain was made. Thousands were killed, Lebanon's civilian infrastructure shattered, Hezbollah made hay over Israel's withdrawal and the soldiers whose capture set the light to the powder-keg were found dead.

Now in Gaza, with Hamas' decision to also resume its nearly pointless barrage of rockets into Israel, the Israeli leadership has decided to retaliate. A retaliation taken on with the idea that the 2006 Lebanon war was not a failure due to the nearly impossible task of rooting out terrorism with military force (a lesson whose apparent difficulty to learn is only surpassed by those determined to attempt it), but that they took it too easy in Lebanon.

Had Hezbollah and Hamas truly had the interests of their people at heart, they would not draw such fire upon their own innocent. And the Israeli government should perhaps realize that they are being purposefully drawn into something they can not really win, and whose effect will only empower their enemy. 

- Murphy

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Department of: How Is This Still Going

Shortly after the election, local Republican activist and regular Post Dispatch op-ed contributor Z. Dwight Billingsly penned a short diatribe that had as much pop as a flat soda and the thoughtfulness of a child's bowl of spaghetti careening through mid-air on its way to an unpleasant meeting with the fridge.

Somehow, that particular story has managed to top the list of the most emailed stories on a regular basis since its publication. 

Titled "A Plan to Survive the Obama Years", Billingsly spends several hundred words trying to reiterate the McCain campaign's attack plan, with even less coherence or credibility than the failed presidential bid managed to eek out. It's as if he just yells a bit louder, the American people-or at least those that happen to read his column-will suddenly....what? Rescind their vote?

The crux of his argument is that President-elect Barack Obama lacks executive experience. Followed by the assertion that for the next four years the executive branch will resemble nothing more than some sort of farce as the Ship of State-manned by a bunch of amateurs-careens into the shoals. 

What never ceases to amaze me, of course, is that had Sen. McCain succeeded in his quest, Republicans would also have elected a man with no executive experience. That point alone should have caused most people to tune out the noise, but if you go further, its easy to see how completely Billingsly's points have been refuted.

Almost without exception, Obama's choices for important positions-Cabinet level, department heads and executive staff-have been lauded specifically for their professionalism and experience. The decision to keep on Defense Secretary Gates to handle the withdrawal from Iraq alone should have been enough to prove that Obama will follow through on his promise to run a professional, no-nonsense administration. 

Republicans should be doubly pleased that it is exactly this focus on practicality and professionalism has caused some consternation amongst those on the Left who thought an Obama administration would be a direct ideological refutation of the Bush administration.

However, the Obama administration appears to be have even more important goals than ideological satisfaction, that of returning honor and professionalism to government and a reassertion of American moral authority in the world. Beyond the ideological bent of the Bush administration, their efforts demoralized and politicized vast swaths of the government. 

In a way, however that was merely the collateral damage of an administration determined to rend any form of legal restrain on those who occupy the White House. Whether it be dumping rules that protect workers, or authorizing the torture of captives.

To return to an era in which merit and professionalism are prized, where the United States leads the world by its example, and where the rule of law is more than an empty promise, that would be the greatest rebuke to the Bush administration and their churlish sycophants.

- Murphy

Saturday, December 20, 2008

More on Madoff

A collection of stories and profiles of the ultimate Pozi.....

The quiet man, from the Forward.

Don't Fence Him In, from the NYT.

More to come...

- Murphy

Top Ten Female Singers....

VH1 did a rundown of the top female popular singers (south, r&b, hip hop, rock, etc.). A great collection of great vocalists. 

My only question is, what is the "whistle octave"? Mariah Carey is apparently blessed with the distinction of having one of the widest octave ranges, including the aforementioned "whistle octave".

- Murphy

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Where exactly is half-way?

In relation to the dustup over President-elect Obama's choice of Pastor Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation, a caller on NPR asked why it's only the left that is reaching out.

Obama has made a point of talking about reaching out to those individuals who fall on the conservative end of the spectrum. His choice of Warren, his decision to keep on Secretary Gates and several of his other cabinet choices have all demonstrated a mixture of choosing individuals for their competence as well as their moderation.

The chicken littles who predicted a reign of neo-Marxists led by a muslim theocrat have certainly not had their fears borne out, something a majority of voters understood quite well.

Yet while liberals seem willing-if not eager-to try and de-escalate the conflict and attempt to open dialogue with those who disagree, there is little effort to cross the gap from the right.

Even Warren. For all his measured tones and hip "new" preacher ways, vehemently and vocally disagrees with liberals on the issues. He is not engaging the dialogue with an openness to change his views, but to try and put a less divisive face on his own.

It's the challenge of bridging the gap, you always run the risk of someone trying to pull you into the void.

- Murphy

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Meet the old boss...

Conservatives have little reason to worry about a progressive takeover. Inevitably the cozy, comfortable world of political power draws them all in.

Roll Call reports that Senator Evan Bayh is attempting to form a "Blue Dog" coalition in the Senate. The Blue Dogs in the House have long been a counterweight to attempts to enact progressive reforms, including government oversight, business regulation and environmental protections. 

Bayh has constantly been floated as a potential VP nominee due to his "moderate" image. He is certainly cementing his position now.

The question this raises is why, when the voters have overwhelmingly elected Democrats to every level of government-Democrats control both houses of Congress, the White House, the majority of Gubernatorial positions and state legislatures-do Democrats reflexively turn to the right?

Certainly it would not be beneficial for supporters of equal rights, environmental protection, labor support and a many other progressive causes to go wild-eyed into the breach, but the constant insistence on a "moderate" approach is pablum designed to placate supporters and opponents.

There is a difference in being pragmatic, however. Pragmatism is not a walk down the fence-line. It is an effort to achieve your ends, even if you have to go around and over a few walls and fences; but it is never loosing sight of the objective. The modern version of "moderation" and "third way" efforts are attempts to strike a stable position perched upon the privacy fence of political leadership.

It was inevitable that the conservative portions of the Democratic caucus would begin to stretch their muscles once they were secure in their position, but they should remember that their "moderation" was not what secured Democratic victories across the country. 

Voters were looking for someone to crack down on the out-of-touch business world, retune national security so that it once again serves our nation's purpose and restore dignity to government. 

President George W. Bush once promised to "restore dignity to the Oval Office". At the time it was seen as it was, a cheap shot at President Bill Clinton. But it dawned on the American public-beginning perhaps around the time of Katrina-that it was really a bad joke at our expense.

- Murphy

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Mankiw Keeps Chipping Away

Harvard Economist Gregory Mankiw-a former advisor to Gov. Mitt Romney's Presidential bid-continues to push the oh-so-popular Republican economic policies.

In today's New York Times, the professor has some advice to President-elect Obama. Had he simply copied one of the memos he sent to Romney and-from the looks of the policy proposals-the McCain campaign, he could have saved some ink.

His list is quick: embrace McCain's health care tax rebate, look at shrinking Social Security and Medicare in order to increase available funds, and support the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (which he includes in his "Recognize Past Mistakes" category).

Yet his laundry list excludes any explanation why these golden ideas have failed to gain real traction.

The first of several straw men is Obama's supposed opposition to "Senator John McCain’s proposal to reform the tax code to include a refundable health insurance tax credit". As anyone who remembers the Presidential campaign we just went through might mention is that Obama opposed McCain's decision to tax health benefits provided to employees by their employers. The tax credit-which would only have covered a portion of what the employee would have to pay for an equivalent policy in the individual market-was merely the sugar coating a poison pill. The real point of the plan, of course, is not to provide better coverage, but to eliminate employer-provided health care. 

The second piece of advice is to tackle Social Security and Medicare before the Baby Boomers strain it to breaking. He apparently has forgotten President Bush's bruising run-in with that train. Much of that "crisis" is as phony as the proposed Republican solution-privatization. Certainly some tweaking-either increasing the tax, increasing the retirement age, or reducing payouts-will help ensure the solvency, but given that the predicting tipping-point seems to recede into the distance every year, there are far more useful expenditures of political capital.

The third is actually a purposeful misrepresentation of Obama's, and other Democrats, opposition to the Dominical-Republic Central American Free Trade Agreement. Democrats have tried for years to ensure stronger labor and environmental rules are included in the agreements. Rules the Republican party has refused to support.

Certainly different economists will disagree on how to best tackle the economic issue facing the country, but like anything else it doesn't benefit anyone to simply drop a few tid-bits while keeping the real detains cloaked. 

- Murphy

Whats the matter with Alaska?

Lots of questions in Alaska. Reported turnout falls short of 2000 and 2004 levels despite a record turnout for the Presidential Primary in the spring. That and none of the pre-election polling numbers held up; including Rassmussen which was accurate in calling every other Senate race it polled.

Alaskan officials are left scratching their heads, reports the Washington Post.

- Murphy

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Monster Mash

Paul Krugman succinctly describes the shift the voters' rejection of Sen. McCain and the Bush wing of the party implies.

Last night wasn’t just a victory for tolerance; it wasn’t just a mandate for progressive change; it was also, I hope, the end of the monster years.

An administration that embraced torture, spied on its own people and misused the levers of power to maintain its control deserves such invective. As the next few years progress, and the people who have been reticent to pipe up out of fear of retribution begin to pass along their stories, the Bush administration's place in history will be thrown in sharp relief. 

Such a sharp blend of incompetence and maliciousness will hopefully never again roam the halls of power.

- Murphy

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Left's Secret Weapon

That would of course be academia...

Tenured Radicals Coming Home to Roost? [Andy McCarthy]
Preliminary indications are that the youth vote (ages 18-29) was way up: an increase of somewhere over 2.2 million (maybe way over) from 2004 (a year in which it was very high), and as much as 13% over 2000. The Left's dominance of the academy is now having a material impact on electoral politics. As we think about the future of conservatism, we ignore that at our peril.
Roger Kimball's new edition of Tenured Radicals seems like an excellent starting point for that urgent discussion.
11/05 03:21 PM

Despite the regularity of this claim (it is usually combined with some knowledge of an effort to drum conservatives off campus. Oddly, it seems the business schools seem to often be the recipient of a substantial administrative attention) McCarthy may be correct in that the conservative movement stands to lose major ground in the future, based mostly on demographics.

Often voters absorb the political winds of the time they grow up in, and generally stay with the party they begin voting for. 

The youth vote went substantially in President-elect Obama's favor, about 70% to 30% for 18-29. Those voters are likely to continue to trend in this same direction. In 2000 the youth split between Sen. Gore and Gov. Bush, 48% to 46% with Ralph Nader picking up the difference. In 2004, the youth vote went to Sen. Kerry with 54% to President Bush's 45%. 

So, in 8 years the size of the vote increased as well as the percentage voting Democrat. That can't be comforting for McCarthy and others.

As for the impact of college, that's still up in the air. About 1/2 of the 18-29 year-olds in America did not attend college. But of those who voted in this year's primaries, 79% attended college. 

So at best, we can be sure that college attendance boosts voting, but given the election night outcome, is the increase in youth votes for Democrats a natural reflection of a changing country? 

- Murphy

The Campaign You Get.... the campaign you deserve.

The McCain campaign stumbled across the finish line last night and barely had time to grab a drink before it was waylaid by a bus. 

Even in the final hours of the campaign the two camps-the Palin and McCain camps that is-were continuing to take shots at each other through leaks to the press. The blood-letting there still continues, this time more on the record (Laura Rozen of War and Piece calls it, "Sheesh. The stuff of sit-com. If not of governing.")

The two sides are trying to lay blame for who hobbled an already shaky campaign, McCain or Palin. Yet the two are inextricably intertwined. 

Palin will go down as one of the least viable candidates ever added to a major-party ticket. Her inexperience and inexplicable ability to view the world will mark her as either kryptonite for the reasonable world, or the choice of the far right for 2012.

McCain himself, however, has only himself to blame for foisting the Alaskan albatross on the Republican party. His blind roll of the dice doomed what little chance he had with moderate America. At that point his attacks and desperate pleas of acceptance to the right-wing of the party had already taken the shine off the memory of John McCain most moderate and independent voters had of him from the 2000 Presidential campaign. But many were likely to begrudge the man a bit of gamesmanship in his ambition. 

Unfortunately for McCain, Palin was the nail and his own erratic and deconstructive response to the fiscal calamity befalling the country was the hammer that sealed the coffin on his campaign. 

There were a dozen little things that helped take out the tires on the "Straight Talk Express" (the complete reversals of position, the lack of discipline, zero message, a dismissal if not a disdain for practical policy ideas, the lack of money, to name a few). 

However, I prefer to believe that the voters were registering a rejection of what Palin and McCain stood for-an unserious campaign running on smears and fear in a time in which the American public were hyperaware of their desire for serious leadership. In challenging times the public wants someone who can offer them a solution, a way forward, or a future. Simply dredging the bottoms for the next missile won't cut it.

- Murphy

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Obama and McCain Trade Leads in Missouri

In the post-primary season Sen. John McCain held a fairly consistent lead across the various polls with some tightening as November progressed, from 5 to 2-3 points. 

However, October has shown a significant shift, with Obama trending ahead of McCain in the state. Obama's lead is approximate to the lead McCain had entering October.

It's a result that makes this state a dead heat. While the Obama campaign might be happy to see the spread move through the margin of error in their favor, it gives them no assurance of squeezing out a victory.

The McCain campaign, however, can not be pleased. In 2004 President George W. Bush trounced Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) by seven percentage points.

What must also give them pause is that the Democratic candidate for Governor, the popular Attorney Jay Nixon, has a double digit lead over his Republican opponent, Rep. Kenny Hulshoff. The two are vying to replace an unpopular Republican governor-Gov. Matt Blunt-who is bowing out of running for a second term (his reason; that he has achieved all he sought to achieve in one term. The real reason? Speculation is about as rampant as the number of commenters on political websites). 

- Murphy

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Campbell Carries Water

That pail Colleen Campbell is carrying must be getting heavy. Campbell spent her time in today's Post-Dispatch Op-Ed section carrying water for the McCain campaign.

Rather than construct some argument that Sen. Barack Obama's tax proposal-which proposes to cut taxes on those making less than $250,000 a year while slightly bumping up taxes on those who make more-was a plan that made no fiscal sense, she instead trotted out the McCain campaign's second front, that Obama-by modifying existing progressive taxes-is a socialist.

In that respect Campbell both flunks the test for recognition of well-defined political systems, as well as the pop-quiz to see if you are keeping up with your homework.

Even a critical reading of what Obama has proposed elicits nothing more than an increase in already-existing taxes for folks making more than $250,000 a year. At the same time it looks to lessen the tax burden on those who earn less.

The entire point of her column was to continue the line that Obama is somehow a socialist by readjusting the existing tax system.

Had she spent a little less time copy-and-pasting from the McCain campaign emails, she may have noticed that McCain supported the current economic bailout. The one that not only funnels billions of taxpayer dollars to the massive banking industry, but takes an ownership stake in many who accept the deal-the specific term is recapitalization. A less judicious explanation would be the state taking an ownership stake in the means of production: a.k.a. a potentially satisfactory condition for socialism.

The McCain campaign and its surrogates have spent incredible amounts of time trying to weave a narrative that has little to do with reality as you and I know it.

Retooling a tax structure so that is slightly more progressive-Obama's proposed increases in taxation would bring them up to the levels of the 1990's when we all suffered through the tech boom and the economic expansion it created-is a far cry from the government taking an ownership position in banks.

Campbell gleeful quoted the Orlando news anchor (whose Q & A should be recorded in history simply for the absolute dissonance exhibited in the interview, with one interlocutor demanding the interviewee essentially pull a rabbit from their nose, while said interviewee simply tries not to double over in laughter) who kicked off her batty performance with a Karl Marx quote. She went on to demand that Bided prove that Obama was not a socialist, or a Marxist; her evidence being that Obama wants to tweak the existing tax system.

Campbell also chucks in Obama's supposed plan to "spread the wealth", which pulls from a comment Obama made about helping reassert the economic power and potential of the middle class-thus increasing the wealth of the majority of the population.

It was once bragged-though I never saw the numbers, it was touted by enough serious folks that it was likely true-that there was more wealth in the collective bank accounts of the folks living in working-to-middle class South St. Louis that in the sections of the Western St. Louis County known for its big homes and expensive cars.

South City is an example of the source of ingenuity and wealth production Obama's tax plan is targeted at, not the folks whose names sit atop the buildings South City works in.

This country is rightfully renowned for its history of giving a nobody with ambition the chance to become captains of industry or occupy the highest seats in the land. That happens because we encourage and foster new entries and new ideas. Protecting existing business and business owner by giving them tax advantages is not only unfair, but undercuts a future we have promised to the hopeful.

- Murphy

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Kander Trashes Nasty Fliers

Jason Kander, an attorney and veteran of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan who is running for State Rep in Kansas City, has sent an email asking voters to let him know if they receive some of the nasty fliers being spread around his area.

The fliers apparently target homes displaying Obama campaign signs. The flyer is a garden-variety theocratic-style rant promising damnation to those supporting Obama, a pro-choice candidate. For those who happen to skim the comments sections of blogs, it's about the equivalent of the lurker who blasts away with bible quotes and fire-and-brimstone rhetoric.

What concerned the person who alerted Kander to the flyer is that they witnessed a person walking the neighborhood jotting down the addresses of residents sporting the Obama signs. It's likely it was merely to target their fliers, but it still unsettled the homeowner, especially since it came soon after several Obama yard signs were defaced.

Certainly there is a flip side to displaying your opinion for all to see, the occasional push-back or criticism that you may receive. Many people who put up yard signs don't expect to receive criticism-barring the occasional neighbor.

Yet this criticism came anonymously. Someone who plants a yard sign is taking ownership of their opinion. Dropping in to Kinkos to run off a rant and sending them out anonymously is not. That said, pamphleteers have been printing pseudonymously or anonymously since the days of Washington.  

The free debate of ideas is enshrined in this country's founding. Firing off scurrilous missives anonymously is, unfortunately, something that has also been with us since the beginning. 

In recent years it has been popular to quote Samuel Johnson's most famous line, that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." Perhaps an appropriate accompaniment is that said scoundrel may also fall back on freedom of speech. 

- Murphy

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Gibbons Trades On Democrats' Split Over Koster

An astroturf effort sponsored by the campaign of State Senator Michael Gibbons touts tries to use Democrats own skepticism of State Senator Chris Koster's transition from Republican to Democrat; which occurred within a convenient period before his announcement that he was running for Attorney General, on the Democratic side.

Despite genuine questions over Koster's Democratic bona-fides, the "Democrats for Gibbons" website is paid for by the Gibbons campaign.

Certainly denying A. does not indicate you endorse B., but Koster has certainly left himself open to the justifiable assertion that Democrats may not be thrilled about his candidacy.

- Murphy

Friday, October 24, 2008

We're Number 10!

Well, technically, Ladue is number 10. The well-off burg of Ladue landed itself on the top ten list of donors to the McCain campaign. The magazine Human Events pulled out the most common zip codes of McCain donors. The Ladue zip code of 63124 came in 10th. However, that home to latte-sipping elites, New York City, came in 1st and 3rd.

1.10021 - New York, N.Y.

2. 85253 - Paradise Valley, Ariz.

3. 10022 - New York, N.Y.

4. 06830 - Greenwich, Conn.

5. 92660 - Newport Beach, Calif.

6. 22101 - McLean, Va.

7. 75205 - Dallas, Texas

8. 77024 - Houston, Texas

9. 78209 - San Antonio, Texas

10. 63124 - St. Louis, Mo.

- Murphy

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Powell Endorses Obama

Former Republican Secretary of State General Colin Powell announced his endorsement of Democratic Senator Barack Obama for President citing his agreement with Obama's foreign policy ideas and an aversion to the negative campaign of Republican Senator John McCain and his decision to choose Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Powell told Tom Brokaw on NBC's Meet the Press this morning:

....he had watched both Obama and his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, for many months and thought “either one of them would be a good president.”

But he said McCain’s choices in the last few weeks — especially his selection of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his vice presidential running mate — had raised questions in his mind about McCain’s judgment.
It's a fairly damning critique from a figure praised and respected by both parties for his skill, service and thoughtfulness. In recent years, Powell has been floated as a possible Presidential candidate. Burnishing his sterling image, many wondered which party's endorsement would he seek.

Powell's explanation of his support for Obama was essentially a rejection of nearly all aspects of the McCain campaign, most powerfully the national security and foreign policy aspects; fields in which Powell as viewed as no mere amateur.

Having served both Republican and Democratic administrations, Powell has been viewed as a professional whose judgment rises above the ideological melee, but is nevertheless respectful of the political implications of his work.

The good soldier version of his story is both reinforced and takes a hit by his tenure as President George W. Bush's Secretary of State. During that time he both counseled caution and care during the planning for Iraq. Yet he also carried some heavy water in his testimony before the United Nations Security Council which inflated the WMD justification enough to receive UN approval, heavily influenced by Powell's own reputation in his role as the U.S.' primary advocate.

Powell's Republican bona-fides are likely to hit the revisionist cycle quickly, however, as conservatives and McCain supporters play up aspects of Powell's foreign policy proscriptions they don't agree with and question his true fidelity to the Bush administration's goals.

That said, Powell provides some fairly tough armor for Obama's foreign policy flank. Perhaps finally putting McCain's foreign policy "advantage"-an advantage already questionable-back on the shelf. The additional criticism of McCain's negative personal attacks from someone widely viewed as a genial and decent person must be the icing for the Obama campaign. 
- Murphy

Friday, October 17, 2008

English Only, bitte...

Governor Matt Blunt is again touting this support for the "English Only" amendment passed by the legislature and that goes before the voters this November.

Although the Governor's statement on the subject refer to English as Missouri's "common language" the amendment would make it mandatory that all official government proceedings be held in english only.

I must admit to a mix of bafflement and suspicion in response to these efforts. It is fairly clear that there is no wave of government meetings being held in Spanish, Bosnian or Swahili, so why the need to amend the state constitution to address a non-existent problem?

In border states such as Texas, New Mexico or Alaska there may be legitimate debates over the desire of non-english speaking citizens to have state-level meetings held in their native tongue. Those are the likeliest places with the critical mass of non-english speakers that would need to address state issues.

However, here in Missouri that simply isn't the case. Even if it were, would it need to rise to the level of a constitutional amendment? The only advantage to the effort could be the ability to avoid any constitutional challenges at the state level. That or it would allow the state to begin refusing to provide resources in any language other than English, as in no translated government documents or even to refuse to cover the cost of translators in court.

Barring those goals it seems the only real benefit to such an effort is its potential as a get-out-the-vote tool for the more conservative factions of the Republican party. Even as far back as 2007, when the original bill was passed, the Republican "brand" was not really drumming up the troops.

It is a time-honored tradition to put controversial issues on the ballot in the hopes of bringing out a particular constituency. Yet as the worst recession in memory looms and individuals watch their savings vanish in the markets' spasms, do these cultural wedge issues gain any traction?

- Murphy

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Obama's Financial Edge in Missouri

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza reports on the huge advertising edge the Obama campaign's financial advantage has provided. The campaign has been able to bludgeon the McCain campagin with television ad after television ad.

Over the previous week (Oct 7-13), the Obama campaign spent $2 million on media in Missouri compared to McCain's $824k, a $1.2 million advantage.

The McCain campaign tried to use Obama's decision not to participate in the public financing system for the general election as a political issue. It seems Obama political decision to take the criticism and the funds has paid off handsomely in the final weeks.

- Murphy

Credit or Blame

There is a tendency to measure current economic health, but as the stock markets' recent lunatic pogo-stick ride demonstrates, there is little hope that any average observer-such as myself-will be able to discern except panic and over-reaction.

With any luck, the credit markets will free up as the government begins buying stake in a number of major banks. That is the crux of the recent problems, and one that is far more complex and thus harder for the majority of Americans to understand.

President George W. Bush said in a press conference that voters should not expect a quick resolution, that the solutions in the works will not cure the overall economic malaise, but will (hopefully) avert complete disaster.

Despite Secretary Paulson's "it is a far better thing I do" speech announcing the nationalization of a large chunk of the U.S. banking system (after, that is, having already nationalized several companies, including AGI the behemouth insurance company), the question is will Bush and his adminsitration receive any credit for finally doing the right thing, or will they find little love at all?

The liberal economic commenters who have been calling for just the type of full-scale intervention the administration is now implementing will still take them to task for a.) helping create the situation in the first place and b.) for not stepping in sooner and thus stemming the hemmorage, trillions up in smoke to date.

Conservatives are likely to criticize the decision as socialism. If, in the end, it works, they will likely tie it to the earlier infusions of capital into the markets.

Currently, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is reaping the credit of a grateful market. Once written off as ineffective and irrelevant, an appendage awaiting the voters final cut, Brown is now lauded as the savior of the international market. Indeed, his announcement of the British capitalization effort bolstered American markets more than the constantly re-shuffled "plan" proffered by the Bush administration.

So, in the end, will Bush's eventual embrace of nationalization be lauded as a smart move? Or will their protestations and foot-dragging expose it for the reluctant (and unwanted) fix that it is.

- Murphy

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

DOJ Investigation Returns To Graves and now Bond

It seems the politicizing of the Justice Department has some ramifications in Missouri.

(Via K.C. Star)

- Murphy

A Little Bit Of Context

Floyd Norris of The New York Times tonight on Charlie Rose just noted that in today's stock collapse $1.2 trillion of value disappeared.  One of the largest dollar-figure drops in history.

That collapse occurred due to the market's reaction to the failure of the rescue package.

The number bandied about since Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's proposed package has been circling $700 billion.

The great protectors of the market, a.k.a. the House Republican, balked at signing off on a plan that had a $700 billion tag laid on it, a figure no one could really verify, pin down or stand behind. As a result, $1.2 trillion in value vanished in a matter of hours.

Had the bill passed, the normal legislative and executive process would take over and things would have continued, the market would have likely responded positively and the process of trying to untangle this gordian knot would proceed. The $700 billion figure is a fixation, but the final figures are unknowable at this point. A steady, but slow, accumulation of selected assets through this bill may have allowed the private investors to return in confidence, thus reducing the need for government intervention. 

Now, however, we are perhaps worse off that we were had there been no vote at all. How many of the Republican members' assets were part of that $1.2 trillion that evaporated thanks to their inaction?

- Murphy

Monday, September 29, 2008

Whip It Good

Missouri's own Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Springfield) blamed Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) speech today for turning key Republican votes against the financial rescue package. Even the 12 members he thought he had whipped in line bailed on the bill.

It's worth noting that Blunt is the Republican whip in the house, charged with bringing members in-line when the leadership (of which he is a part) decides to press an issue.

An issue, perhaps, like the package President George W. Bush, Republican Presidential candidate John McCain and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) all promised would pass with the support of their Republican colleagues in the House. 

Sen. McCain went so far this morning as to remind voters that he went so far as to suspend his campaign for President, in order to go back to Washington and help hammer out a deal (which he believed in taking credit for this morning, but since the vote has been incommunicado on the subject).

After two-thirds of the Republicans in the House bailed on the bill, Boehner and others tried to place the blame squarely on Pelosi whose speech (read the transcript here) emphasized the role deregulation and Republican support for pulling economic oversight played in the economic catastrophe before us. It was a rebuke to Republican policies, to be sure. And even perhaps badly timed (it couldn't have hurt to wait until after the vote?). 

Yet if the Republican members had been serious about supporting the bill, in the belief it was the correct move, than it certainly should not have dissuaded them.

In fact, it looks more likely that a majority of Republican members were not happy with the bill and after not convincing their leadership that their alternative (assuming they had a practical one and not simply the "insurance" plan) was preferable to amended Bush-Paulson proposal, they decided to deep-six the entire deal.

Where does that leave the markets and the American voters? With the greatest one-day point drop in stock market history and greater uncertainty for the workers and business owners who are wondering where their retirement funds went and whether they will be able to maintain the lines of credit necessary to allow their businesses to continue.

There was an unattributed comment circulated late last week that said, essentially, "better to risk a Great Depression, than sacrifice the 'free market'". I guess we can chalk it up to the Republican members of the 110th Congress.

- Murphy

Saturday, September 27, 2008

McCain May Want To Look Away

Despite the general consensus that the debate was "soporific" draw, it is hard to look back at it and not see it as a win for Sen. Barack Obama.

While it did not provide the fireworks many were hoping for, on both the substantive and stylistic fronts, the meeting explained much.

Much of the McCain campaign has been about defining Obama as unserious, unprepared and inexperienced. In fact, after stripping away McCain's own confusing mix of proposals and rants, his entire campaign is based around attacking Obama on those terms.

Last night Obama deftly dealt with those attacks, excepting the experience issue. Yet even there he deflected those attacks by again raising the question of judgment.

The inexperience issue may still be "operative" but as conservative commentator George Will wrote in a column criticizing McCain's tempestuous temperament and questioning his fitness to be President, "Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?"

McCain pushed his experience and tried to deflect Republican-fatigue by wrapping himself in the "Maverick" flag-even calling himself a Maverick, violating rule one of being a Maverick-but can that overcome a steady effort by the Obama campaign to highlight McCain's record of supporting President George W. Bush (a.k.a. He Who Will Not Be Named) 90% of the time?

Last night Obama looked composed, prepared, respectful and ready. In a word, he showed the voters he was "Presidential" material. The voters seemed to respond positively:

- Murphy

Secret Ninja Threat?

What is the deal with The Riverfront Times' Best Of issue? Every page or so there is an inexplicable photo women dressed in martial arts gear posed for big trouble in River City.

The only apparent theme of the photos is that they are all staged at prominent St. Louis locations. There is no relation to either A. St. Louis or B. the categories-the title pages of which are also bedazzled by a weapon-wielding warrior.

Is this some sort of quick-response action team drafted to protect St. Louis landmarks? Is there some sort of ninja threat that is being kept from the public? 

Where is Public Safety Director Charles Bryson and his Department? Are he and the board of Police Commissioners camped out in the emergency command center carved out below the World War I memorial downtown, reviewing the complete Bruce Lee library in an effort to cut off the shadow warriors at the pass?

If this is the case, shouldn't the RFT be putting its crackerjack news department on the case rather than hand over the paper to its ad department? (Though they are known for their sick sword handling) I mean they are all about shining a gimlet eye on the powers-that-be, right?

- Murphy

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Nuge As McCartney's Bodyguard?

In times we find ourselves overtopped with weirdness, we can always export our surplus...

Rebellious rocker, avid 2nd amendment supporter and fervent anti-jihadist, Ted Nugent has volunteered to be Paul McCartney's bodyguard at an upcoming concert in Israel.

British paper The Guardian reports that the former Beatle has yet to respond to the well-armed rocker's offer, which comes in the wake of death threats aimed at McCartney.

- Murphy

Monday, September 22, 2008

Republican Mayor For Nixon

In the deep red heart of St. Charles lies St. Peters. Home to lots of quick stops and extra-lane intersections, the town is also a major source of blue-collar Republicans; folks who voted for Reagan and never looked back. 

Attorney General Jay Nixon, Democratic candidate for the gubernatorial mansion, has been basing a great deal of his campaign on winning back those voters who have gone heavily Red in national races, but do vote blue in local races-provided they believe the candidate is one of them.

In what may be a boost in that campaign, the Mayor of St. Peters, Len Pagano, has endorsed Nixon.

Middle-class families and small businesses in towns like mine across Missouri are hurting these days, and Jay Nixon is the only candidate for Governor with a real plan to turn our economy around. As Attorney General, Jay has gone after companies that broke promises to keep jobs in Missouri, and as Governor, he will prioritize education and workforce development to bring new employers to the state.
Congressman Hulshof just doesn't get it, but Jay Nixon does, and that's why I am breaking with my party to support him this November. I urge you to join me by writing your local newspapers in support of Jay's plan to turn Missouri's economy around.

Pagano was elected in April of this year.

- Murphy

The Indefatigable Ed Martin

Does he keep it in a safe by his bed? Locked in a vial in a safety deposit box? Where does Martin keep the time machine that allows him to slip from role to role in a shorter period than most post-grad interns could manage.

Martin's latest hat is that of a cable-access political commentator on Charter's CCIN. Called Midwest Talking Points, the show will take a look at Missouri political news. (Via Pub Def).

Though less a technocratic libertarian than a conservative barrister, Martin may be the Newt Gingrich of Missouri.

Politician, advisor, advocate and commentator; Martin is there.

- Murphy

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fiorina's Out?

CNN is reporting that Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO and top McCain campaign official, is likely to drop from view for the next few weeks. 

The likely cause of her disappearance follows her comments to journalists on two occasions that Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin could not run a major corporation; something Fiorina did for a number of, sometimes tumultuous, years. On her second comment she tried to temper the perceived slight by adding that neither Republican candidate John McCain nor Democratic nominee Barack Obama could run a major corporation either.

Fiorina originally told St. Louis radio host McGraw Milhaven on Monday that Palin couldn't run a corporation. She then compounded her move by expanding on it to Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC this morning.

It was a bad slip and an even worse recovery. When a major figure in your campaign-who also happens to have been a very successful businesswoman who broke into one of the oldest boys clubs by being the first female head of a Fortune 20 company-says both the head and the number two members of the presidential ticket don't have what it takes to run a major company, that just hands two days of media to the Democrats. And who knows how many campaign ads.

Republicans have long used the imagery of government as a "business" in order to shore up their many business-beholden candidates. Remember President George W. Bush's "CEO President" line? Having a genuinely successful business executive (as opposed to a mediocre CEO like Bush, or the series of former government officials who leave the public sphere to land in well-packaged executive slots in friendly companies like McCain's former economic advisor Phil Gramm) cut down your candidates business acumen-not once, but twice-is a sharp blow.

Fiorina herself was once seen as being on the short list for McCain's VP slot. She has been very public as a McCain surrogate including debating Sen. Claire McCaskill-long a Obama supporter-on ABC's This Week this past Sunday.

Her less than convincing arguments on Sunday, combined with her recent slip, perhaps explains why Palin-who appears eminently scriptable-got the nod instead. 

Of course, there is also the fact that she is an ambitious, strong, capable and successful woman who made her mark in a world dominated by men. But that wouldn't factor into their thinking at all...right? Palin was clearly the most capable Republican woman available to run.

- Murphy

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Spore Spreads

One of the most talked about game has been the recently release Spore. A game where players create characters and set them lose in worlds where they are allowed to evolve. Perhaps a gamers' blend of intelligent design and evolution.

Not being a gamer myself, I doubt that I will play the game myself, but the interest the game's "evolution" component has me intrigued.

The next-generation software earned it a discussion on NPR's Science Friday show. Host Joe Palka spoke with evolutionary biologists and the game's creators. While they focused on the possibility of encouraging gamers to learn to think about their relation with the world around them via their characters, the substance of the idea seemed a bit thin.  More sales pitch than revolution.

While science fans geek out over the integration of sophisticated evolutionary modeling programs with mass-marketed consumer software, the real question is: do people enjoy it?

The Washington Post's tech columnist, Mike Musgrove, reports that reviews of the gameplay are mixed, but that the game maker's anti-piracy efforts have set off the strongest opinions. Musgrove says players generally enjoy the game, but that it fell short of other games it appeared to borrow ideas from, such as the famous SimCity, which Spore's creators also designed.

Cult of Mac writer Leigh McMullen also gave it mixed reviews; enjoyable, but didn't have the hook other games of its ilk such as World of Warcraft, Civilization and Sims.

Players who enjoy the strategy/role-playing genre of games are, unsurprisingly, demanding. Someone willing to involve themselves in a game that can potentially become a "second life" are looking for a lot.

The aspect of integrating software that allows game characters to evolve is not new. While the creators of Spore have brought new code to the process, the basics remain the same. 

Three years in the making, the game has landed with a lot of news, but time will tell if it can compete; not only with World of Warcraft and the others, but the creators own classic SimCity.

- Murphy

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

New Obama Ad Calls Out McCain-Palin On "Reformer" Claim

The Obama campaign has released a new ad that takes on the "Maverick" label the McCain-Palin campaign has embraced. The ad is expected to run in battleground states starting today.

Funny enough, it hits on exactly a point I wanted to write about.

That the McCain-Palin campaign has shown great chutzpa in running wild with the "reformer" label. Neither Sen. John McCain-especially in the last eight years-or Gov. Sarah Palin could truly take on the mantle with a straight face if they had any shred of respect for the voters.

McCain's campaign was made up almost entirely of major lobbyists, while Palin racked up millions of dollars in earmarks as a Mayor and hundreds of millions as a governor.

They have hoped to breeze through the last 60 days by dodging scruitiny (though 5 seconds on Google would blow a hole in their camapaign rhetoric), but given that even the Wall Street Journal (not exactly a liberal bastion) is starting to call them on their eggregious reshaping of the truth, their damn isn't likely to hold for long.

- Murphy

No New Missouri Polls Yet

While it appears there is a wave of new polling coming out of some battleground states (Ohio and Virginia, for example), there is little news from Missouri.

All we can currently go on were polls that showed a steady lead for McCain
(48% to 44%) right into the beginning of August. If the convention bounce that is showing up in national polls trickles down to us (as it is likely to do) then it is hard to see that gap narrowing at all.

I have to again say that if anyone is seeking in-depth, insightful coverage of political polling-from the latest results to what it is the place to go. I say this mostly because I lean on them for a great deal of coverage. They maintain an up-to-date list of the latest polls, run aggregate numbers and analyze what's going on behind the numbers. It's like having your own private pollster.

- Murphy

Monday, September 08, 2008

Why Georgia Really Means...

Recent events in the caucuses has meant that Georgia may mean more than Bulldog football for many Americans.

The effort by the Eurasian nation of Georgia to repatriate the breakaway region of South Ossetia by force and its consequent rebuffing by Russian forces (claiming to stand in defense of Ossetian independence), has reignited concerns about Russian efforts to reassert itself in the world, and has injected itself into U.S. Presidential politics.

Following Russia's brushing aside of the U.S.-advised Georgian forces (one thousand U.S. troops were in-country training the Georgian military only months ago), and their de-facto control of the country, the subject has, surprisingly, drifted off the cable news tickers and newspaper front pages.

Despite the quiet, the Russian-Georgian conflict represents a shift in the power and influence that has yet to be absorbed by many in this country.

George Friedman, of the private intelligence group Stratfor, has penned a fascinating and quick read in the New York Review of Books that lays out why Georgia really matters, and what it says about the state of American power in the world.

...the United States, along with other countries, has viewed Russia through the prism of the 1990s, when its military was in shambles and its government was paralyzed. The United States has not seen Russia make a decisive military move beyond its borders since the Afghan war of the 1970s and 1980s. The Russians had systematically avoided such moves for years. The United States had assumed that they would not risk the consequences of an invasion. 
If that was the case, then it points to the central reality of this situation: the Russians had changed dramatically, along with the balance of power in the region. They welcomed the opportunity to drive home the new reality, which was that they could invade Georgia, and the United States and Europe could not meaningfully respond. They did not view the invasion as risky. Militarily, there was no force to counter them. Economically, Russia is an energy exporter doing quite well—indeed, the Europeans need Russian energy even more than the Russians need to sell it to them. Politically, as we shall see, the Americans need the Russians more than the Russians need the Americans. Moscow's calculus was that this was the moment to strike. The Russians had been building up to it for months, and they struck. 

The rest of the article explains the complex relationship the U.S. has with the Russians, how the Europeans are in no position to argue, the general sense of dismissal towards Russian potential to project strength, Russia's own rise to economic prominence due to energy resources, and the fact that the U.S. has tied itself down tight in Iraq.

In other words, the Russians have backed the Americans into a corner. The Europeans, who for the most part lack expeditionary military forces and are dependent upon Russian energy exports, have even fewer options. If nothing else happens, the Russians will have demonstrated that though they are not a global power by any means, they have resumed their role as a significant regional power with lots of nuclear weapons and an economy that is less shabby now than in the past. Russia has also compelled every state on its periphery to reevaluate its position relative to Moscow. That is what the Russians wanted to demonstrate, and they have demonstrated it.

Georgia has been pushing for entrance into NATO, the military alliance that stood in opposition to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Recent acceptance into NATO by other countries formerly under Russian influence or control-such as Poland-have helped fuel the growing tension between a re-emergent Russian under former Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the West.

Handling a more confident and powerful Russian bear will be a major challenge for the next President. While President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush's father skillfully managed the turbulent breakup of the Soviet Union, the younger Bush has been able to tend to it only a fraction of the time. Meanwhile Putin was slowly regrouping the strings of power. Bush was happy to welcome the Orange Revolution in Ukraine (which has since lost its luster as the nations splits over its decision to lean east or west) and the Rose Revolution in Georgia. 

Yet neither nation has turned into a bastion of freedom and both are looking askance at Bush while keeping one eye on the bear sitting next to them.

Far from a wave of new democracies in the former Soviet Sphere, we are now left with a newly assertive Russia, proud to reclaim its former spheres of influence (those were fighting words in the Cold War) and happily thumbing their nose at the United States as we spend billions in Iraq. 

- Murphy

Saturday, September 06, 2008

David Frum: What matters

David Frum, a conservative author and former speechwriter for President Bush, talks about why it's important for Palin to be out in front of the debate over her qualifications to be VP as well as why it's essential to be able to make your case forcefully, and not just preach to the choir.

A question I am often asked when I give talks or lectures is: Why did the Bush communication effort end so badly? How did an administration that once commanded such public support end by losing all ability to make its case?

My answer is that the ultimate failure was encoded into the initial success. The president's communication team - of which Nicole Wallace was an important part - shared the same disdain of "elites" that permeates so much of my pro-Palin correspondence. It was not just the media elite that they disregarded. (Who could blame them for that?) It was the policy elite too. When the president wished to advocate, eg a tax cut, he did not argue his case before the Detroit Economic Club or send a surrogate to Jackson Hole. He made a rally speech before cheering supporters. That made for effective soundbites and exciting images. But it abdicated any effort to make an argument that could convince people who were not predisposed to be convinced.

- Murphy

Palin Also In the Freezer

The McCain campaign has let it be known that his VP pick, Gov. Sarah Palin, will be incommunicado for the time being.

Perhaps this is a chance for the campaign to find out more about Palin straight from her instead of the media.

A well-caffeinated college intern with Google and a long-distance phone card could have uncovered more about Palin than the McCain campaign appears to have found before announcing her place on the ticket.

One of the most important role a President has is the appointment of key officials: cabinet officers, military commanders, federal judges. 

How does their preparation for the VP position (the Presidential back-up if you will) reflect on McCain's competency when it comes to decision-making? 

- Murphy

Friday, September 05, 2008

Fannie and Freddie Frozen?

(via Washington Monthly) The New York Times is reporting that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae  have been put on notice that the government intends to take control of the two mortgage giants soon. The head of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, and Treasury Secretary Paulson, Jr., have apparently decided they had given the companies enough time to clean up their books and restore investor confidence.

Effectively, the government is putting them into bankruptcy and cleaning house. The heads of both companies and their boards will all be replaced. The investors will see their stocks dwindle to nothing. The taxpayers, meanwhile, will be pickup up the tab as the companies are rebuilt; and hopefully confidence in the institutions will be rebuilt as well.

This is one of those "oh, nuts", moments economists were worried about. Why? Fannie and Freddie own or guarantee approximately 50% of the mortgage market, almost $6 trillion. While they are hamstrung by their efforts to rescue what is left of the company, they have not been performing their role of adding liquidity to the mortgage market, their appointed role since their inception (Fannie Mae in 1938 and Freddie Mac in 1970). Less liquidity means fewer loans which results in slower growth.

This move, one of the largest takeovers in history, is far from an example of an economy that is "fundamentally sound", as Sen. John McCain recently said.

Currently the economy is not providing a better life for most Americans. Productivity is up, but wages are stagnant, and job loses are growing. 

Whoever occupies the Oval Office, they will have to confront the shaky economic reality that many families struggle with every day. So far, McCain's comments on the economy do no relate to the world most people see; perhaps reflecting his admitted ignorance of economics. 

There are no perfect fixes, but reducing the burden on those making less, creating a more fair health care system, finding ways to encourage businesses to expand and hire more workers in this country, and not pretending their is no problem would be a good place to start.

- Murphy

Opening Up Wireless Internet?

Google, the ubiquitous internet search engine, has teamed up with several industry groups and non-profit media organizations–including the Wireless Innovation Alliance and Free Press–to press Congress to free up more of the wireless spectrum for wireless internet projects.

The spectrum in question, referred to as "white space" as it goes unused, resides alongside the spectrum used to broadcast television signals, specifically around channles 2 and 54. The new devices built to take advantage of this "white space" would transmit and receive on the unused portion of the spectrum. There are several ideas on how to do this effectively, either a central database the device would consult based on its location, or a more autonomous version in which the device determines which spectrum is clear on its own-most likely in the future.

Traditionally the Federal Communications Commission auctions off spectrum to the highest bidder. Thus, Verizon has a chunk, AT&T has a slice and so on.

Google and its partners want the spectrum to be released to the public as an "open" spectrum, meaning no one company controls the spectrum and all devices using the spectrum, such as WiFi devices, would be based on a standardized but open, non-proprietary platform.

The National Association of Broadcasters have expressed concern that allowing unfettered use of the spectrum would interfere with their broadcasts. Those in favor of opening up the spectrum, however, counter that the technology has been shown to work. Devices are still under development.

The concept of open access to a public resource like the electromagnetic spectrum is appealing. Expanding access will allow small developers to have the same access the multi-billion dollar companies–including Google and their fellow Alliance partners Dell and Microsoft.

In the past, allowing anyone unfettered ability to broadcast would wreak havoc on the ability to use the spectrum effectively. New technology, however, will allow more options to be squeezed out of the limited available spectrum.

A well designed system could allow greater access for individuals and small groups to the broadcast spectrum, creating a less hierarchical structure more akin to the internet and perhaps sparking a new explosion of innovation and growth.

For more on the Google plan, read Joel Johnson of's article on the proposal.

More: Google's advocacy website including a petition to lobby Congress and videos from internet users. Free Press's website on opening internet access.

- Murphy

Thursday, September 04, 2008

McCain's Speech

Sen. John McCain accepted his role as the Republican nominee with a speech that ranked among the better public appearances McCain has made this campaign. McCain has never been a polished speaker, and tonight was no exception. Yet it was a well prepared speech and, as such, counts as a plus in the speech column.

McCain's was a speech long on biography, short on policy and heavily sprinkled with buzz phrases. He regularly pressed his image as a contra-Washingtonian, an insider who chafed at the tony lifestyle of the national elite. Yet of the list of policy points McCain did touch upon, nothing seemed at all out of step with the Republican party platform: increased oil drilling, vouchers and reducing taxes (though he doesn't say whose taxes).

When it comes to McCain's own signature issue, earmarks, however, he is undercut by his own VP selection. Gov. Sarah Palin spent most of her political career ensuring her constituents received as much federal money as possible; including those funds that were to go towards the infamous "bridge to nowhere". The project-which Palin only spoke negatively about after it was canceled-never came to fruition, but the funds were sent to Alaska anyway and distributed.

The most compelling portion of the evening was Sen. McCain's own personal story. His experience in Vietnam is one that defies summation. His story is one that is not so far removed from some of the friends and family we are close to. While it is a history that many Americans see within their own families, it has taken on an almost totemic quality in the McCain campaign.

Following his military career, McCain decided to enter public life and run for office. It is on those terms that we should judge him. Did he support campaign finance reform and then abandon it? Did he interject himself in an international dispute between the United States and Russia over a country-Georgia-which had, until recently, kept McCain's foreign-policy advisor on retainer as a lobbyist? If McCain believes that needling Russia over the issue of Georgia's rebellious regions- thus reigniting conflicts Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush have worked to mediate, and perhaps jeopardizing our efforts to mediate Iran's nuclear threat among other efforts-then it should be front and center in the debate.

It's unlikely McCain's seech gave anyone who wasn't already a supporter something to vie for. However, he did provide a counterpoint to Gov. Palin's red meat on Wednesday night. It may seem like a smart move, to contrast McCain as the moderater of the Republican fight points, but given that he has to moderate his own VP-usually considered a complimentary role-does not bode well for how his campaign views the heft at the top of the ticket.

Palin was a pick from deep in right field. Prior to her selection, and the resulting enthusiasm amongst the base, McCain was effectively dead in the water when it came to the several million conservative votes that kept President G. W. Bush in the White House for the past eight years. His speech might be enough to maintain his reputation as a moderate (despite the record his campaign is putting together), but if the ticket does make it to the Oval Office, it won't be due to McCain's persuasion.

- Murphy

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Where The Angry Women At?

Despite weeks of breathless pontification over the fate of the Democratic party as women rendered it asunder in the wake of their heroine's loss we come to learn that, in the end, most Democratic party members behaved like-well-Democratic party members.

PRINCETON, NJ -- The Democratic convention appears to have helped solidify support for Barack Obama among former Hillary Clinton supporters, with the percent saying they will vote for Obama in November moving from 70% pre-convention to 81% after the convention, and the percent certain to vote for Obama jumping from 47% to 65%

As for those who are still claiming they are planing to vote for McCain, its possible they may have, in the end, pulled the lever for McCain anyhow....despite their self-avowed support for Clinton. 

Another thing to keep in mind when the cable news choir begins to roll out a new tune about the Clinton backlash; folks inclined to so radically switch from one political point-of-view to another simply based on their attachment to a single personality might not lend themselves as reliable poll respondents.

- Murphy

News Wrap-up From the Last Frontier

The Anchorage Daily News has a wrapup of how their Governor's new role is being digested by news outlets around the world. 

For Example:

Why the Palin baby story matters (National Review) In the Colorado section, I ran into Sue Sharkey from Windsor. When I asked what she thought, her reaction was not about Palin but herself.
Did any Alaskans get a call? (The New York Times) "They didn't speak to anyone in the Legislature, they didn't speak to anyone in the business community,"said Lyda Green, the state Senate president who lives in Wasilla, where Palin served as mayor.
Hillary's gone, but the gender issue isn't (Globe and Mail) The Republicans are clearly trying to attract disgruntled Hillary Clinton voters. But what kind of twisty mindset would basically substitute one female candidate for another regardless of political beliefs, which, in this case, are miles apart? Palin, a social conservative, is ardently anti-abortion, doesn't believe climate change is manmade and is against "explicit" sex education in schools.
Three questions Republicans are asking themselves about Palin (ABC News)

• What else is out there about Palin?

• Was the vetting process complete and professional?

• What message will voters hear about McCain's judgment that he chose someone to be his running mate who has almost no national security experience and who is so much of an unknown quantity?

Despite the seemingly impenetrable echo that reverberates amongst the commentators on most of the cable news outlets, other news outlets seem to be examining the questions that many Americans are asking themselves, and that the McCain campaign never saw fit to ask.

- Murphy

As Republicans Begin Convention, Obama Increases Lead

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Il.) edged open his lead a little further in the Presidential race. Pollster's aggregate tracking poll has the Democratic Senator ahead by just over 5% - 48.8% to 43.6%. 

Today's Gallup tracking poll shows Obama hitting 50% for the first time. The Gallup daily tracking poll only good in the aggregate, too much statistical noise clouds the 1 or 2 point shifts. However, Obama has been bumping up against the 50% mark for the past week, with McCain hovering just over 40.

Is this the convention bump? Or is it a reaction to the continuously forthcoming stories surrounding McCain's choice to pick Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate? That pick, so far, has seemed to please few besides the evangelical community. 

Dr. James Dobson, founder of the socially conservative group Focus on the Family, reversed his earlier vow to not vote for McCain following Palin's selection. To Dobson and other conservatives, Palin embodies their mission which includes: opposition to abortion, sex educaation, homosexuality, and supports the teaching of creationism in schools and expanding the influence of religion in both schools and government. 

- Murphy